Stevia needs baking partner

by Jeff Gelski
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Grain-based foods manufacturers wanting to test marketing opportunities associated with a rising interest in stevia-based sweeteners should remember stevia extracts, like other high-intensity sweeteners, require a bulking agent in baked foods. Since a natural status differentiates stevia extracts from other HIS sweeteners, a natural bulking agent might be a wise choice. Erythritol, a polyol, is an option. Inulin, a prebiotic fiber, and sugar also are available.

Stevia’s industrial use has increased since the Food and Drug Administration in December 2008 said it had no questions about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of certain stevia extracts in foods and beverages. U.S. sales of all food and beverage products promoted for stevia content reached $85,552,067 in the 52 weeks ended June 13, 2009, according to The Nielsen Co. Sales for the same products jumped to $281,441,495 for the 52 weeks ended June 12, 2010. The figures covered U.S. food stores with $2 million and over in sales, excluding supercenter items.

Other findings bode well for the sugar-reduction benefits of stevia extracts as well as their natural status. U.S. consumers’ reliance on sugar and sweeteners for total energy consumption is more than twice that of the global average, according to Datamonitor, a research and analysis company. U.S. consumers take in 17% of their total energy through sugars and sweeteners. Germany and The Netherlands tie for second at 14%.

According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2010 Food & Health Survey, 70%

of Americans are trying to consume less sugar and 63% are trying to consume less high-fructose corn syrup. Cogent Research, Cambridge, Mass., conducted the Web-based survey by contacting 1,024 people from April 30 to May 17. The margin for error was plus or minus 3%.

U.S. sales of products promoted for being natural, meanwhile, reached $20,310,202,058 for the 52 weeks ended June 12, 2010, up from $19,655,355,067 in the previous 52-week period, according to The Nielsen Co.

While natural, zero-calorie stevia extracts have found their way into such beverage brands as Odwalla and Vitaminwater, they are not as numerous in new grain-based foods products.

Penny’s Low Fat Desserts, Grass Valley, Calif., this year launched three grain-based products with stevia extracts: a chocolate truffle cookie, a toffee cinnamon cookie and a banana bran muffin. The products are sold on the Internet and in some Whole Foods stores in California.

“Our company would be interested in entertaining strategic partnerships,” Penny Pearl, the company founder, said. She gave the example of a company perhaps wanting to become involved in stevia-based products without going through the developmental process.

The products’ front labels promote them as having no sugar added. The company web site promotes stevia.

“Real estate is an issue on the front label and back label,” Ms. Pearl said.

Penny’s Low Fat Desserts chose erythritol, a natural sweetener, to partner with stevia extracts even though it is more costly than maltitol.

“Stevia and erythritol are perfect for us,” Ms. Pearl said. “We are looking for something that is very flavorful, but low-calorie and low-sugar.”

Erythritol, like other polyols, may create a cooling effect in the mouth if use levels reach a certain point, Ms. Pearl said.

Erythritol is a novel bulk sweetener with caloric value close to zero, according to Jungbunzlauer AG, based in Basel, Switzerland, and an erythritol supplier. A white crystalline powder, erythritol is about 70% as sweet as sucrose and is heat stable up to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cargill, Minneapolis, uses erythritol in its Truvia brand, a tabletop sweetener with stevia. The company offers Zerose brand erythritol as an ingredient for food and beverage companies. A natural fermentation process creates erythritol. It has been shown to work in cookies, biscuits, brownies, muffins, cakes, cheesecake, fillings and icings. Compared to sucrose, Zerose exhibits different melting behavior, a more compact dough, less color formation, better moisture control and softer baked foods.

“Erythritol offers a solution for both health and indulgence,” Cargill said. “It has a taste and functionality similar to sucrose, though its calorie content is zero. In addition, erythritol has the highest digestive tolerance compared to other polyol sweeteners.”

Food scientists from Cargill, Minneapolis, worked with Penny’s Low Fat Desserts to develop Penny’s new grain-based food products. Penny’s Low Fat Desserts then developed its own proprietary blend of erythritol and stevia extracts.

The company in the future may launch other grain-based products with stevia extracts.

“Now that we’ve figured out the magic on this, it’s not really a complex process for us to add new products,” Ms. Pearl said. “Of course, our food scientist disagrees with me.”

Sugar and stevia also may team up in sugar-reduced products. Natural Sweet Ventures, L.L.C., Sugar Land, Texas, this year launched a Steviacane sweetener that combines stevia extracts and sugar to offer competitive pricing and calorie-reduction to food and beverage formulators.

Natural Sweet Ventures is a joint venture between Imperial Sugar Co., a refiner and distributor of sugar products, and PureCircle USA, Inc., a producer of high-purity stevia products. PureCircle promoted the Steviacane during I.F.T. 10, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held in Chicago July 17-20.

Steviacane is created through a proprietary compound crystallization process that binds sugar and rebaudioside A, a steviol glycoside found inside the stevia plant. Steviacane combines the benefits of stevia’s high-intensity sweetness and the bulking characteristics of cane sugar. Steviacane has been shown to work in any food or beverage application that currently uses sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. It is similar to sugar in terms of temperature, pH and stability.

Steviacane is available in three sugar-reduction options: 30%, 50% and 75%. A crystallized version of Steviacane is designed for baking applications as well as for syrups, spray-on, dairy and confection applications.

PureCircle also has made plans to increase consumer awareness of stevia. The company in late September plans to launch a consumer campaign titled “We grow joy.” It involves advertising in such magazines as Every Day with Rachel Ray, Fitness and Real Simple. A consumer web site will launch in September.

Earlier this year PureCircle Ltd. introduced the Global Stevia Institute. It will promote accurate, credible and consistent information and resources about stevia to health professionals, consumers and the food industry, according to the company.

Several branded stevia extract ingredients, most somewhere between 200 and 300 times sweeter than sucrose, have entered the market in recent years. While PureCircle is

associated with the PureVia brand, GLG Life Tech Corp., Vancouver, B.C., offers Rebpure. Enliten is the stevia extract brand name for Corn Products International, Westchester, Ill.

“There are different grades of stevia that you can get,” Ms. Pearl said. “You go on the web, and there are a lot of sources for it.”

Many stevia extract suppliers promote the high content of rebaudioside A, which may be the sweetest steviol glycoside inside the stevia plant. It is supposed to be more pure and have less of a bitter aftertaste, Ms. Pearl said.

“Everybody is trying to get into stevia,” said Jim May, president and chief executive officer of Wisdom Natural Brands, Gilbert, Ariz.

Mr. May has worked with stevia sweeteners and their suppliers since 1982. Stevia extracts already were used in dietary supplements in the United States before they were approved for use in foods and beverages.

Wisdom Natural Brands offers SweetLeaf Sweeteners, a blend of the four most desired steviol glycosides: rebaudioside A, stevioside, rebaudioside C and dulcoside. The company differs from many other stevia suppliers in that it uses water extraction techniques, and not methanol or ethanol. This process leads to less of an off-taste in stevia-based sweeteners, Mr. May said.

Mr. May said Wisdom Natural Blends since 1995 has blended stevia with inulin, an insoluble and prebiotic fiber from chicory root, to create its table top sweetener. 

Cost-effective stevia options increase

CHICAGO — Two of the major global stevia extract suppliers promoted new ingredients designed to make using the natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener more affordable during I.F.T. 10, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago held July 17-20.

GLG Life Tech Corp., Vancouver, B.C., launched BlendSure to provide food and beverage companies and consumers a natural sweetener with no calories or carbohydrates and at a price point that is comparable and competitive to sugar, according to the company.

Researchers for GLG Life Tech developed BlendSure by isolating various components of the stevia plant and then blending them in a proprietary ratio to deliver a consistent, balanced and sucrose-like taste profile that is heat and pH stable. BlendSure works well when combined with other natural sweeteners such as sugar and erythritol, according to GLG Life Tech.

“BlendSure is the first product in our industry that offers a blended stevia-based sweetening system that combines specific glycosides such as rebaudioside A and pure stevioside together to deliver sugar-like sweetness while also providing a favorable cost of goods position to our customers,” said James Kempland, vice-president of marketing.

BlendSure has met requirements for self-affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status and has received a letter of certification from GRAS Associates. GLG Life Tech plans to file its dossier for a no-objection letter from the Food and Drug Administration.

PureCircle USA, Oak Brook, Ill., said it has received a letter of no objection from the F.D.A. for the use of the company’s SG95 product as a food and beverage ingredient in the United States. The clearance enables PureCircle to offer a wider and more flexible array of stevia solutions to manufacturers in the U.S. market, according to the company.

Along with seven previously approved steviol glycosides found in the stevia plant, SG95 includes two new steviol glycosides, rebaudioside D and rebaudioside F, both of which are receiving GRAS no-objection status from the F.D.A. for the first time. PureCircle said the product ideally is suited for applications formulated with both sugar and SG95 to achieve a low-cost solution to partial sugar and calorie reduction.

“The launch of SG95 is a very exciting development for PureCircle in the United States with considerable future potential in global markets,” said Magomet Malsagov, chief executive officer and managing director of PureCircle. “Expanded use of sweet glycosides from the stevia plant provides both formulation and economic benefits to our customers.

“Our Reb A 97 continues to play a major role in our portfolio, particularly as our investments yield continued efficiencies that will be shared with our customers. Now, SG95 will provide an additional compelling product today in many applications. We are proud to continue to be at the forefront of innovation to help mainstream a better sweet choice for consumers.”

ADM hires scientist for sweetener research

DECATUR, ILL. — Dirk Reif has joined Archer Daniels Midland Co. as a sweetener development scientist to lead the company’s high-intensity sweetener research. High-intensity sweeteners are zero-calorie and low-calorie sugar substitutes that are used in a variety of food applications.

“This role reflects our ongoing interest in the high-intensity sweetener category,” said Mark Matlock, senior vice-president, Food Research, for Decatur-based ADM. “Dirk has extensive experience in the development of high-intensity sweeteners, and his expertise will be instrumental as we grow this product line to meet our customer needs.”

Mr. Reif previously worked for Radian, Inc., a supplier of engineering, logistics support and system integration services. He received a bachelor’s degree in science from Southern Illinois University and a master of science from the University of Illinois.

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